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Limit CIA Role To Intelligence by Harry S Truman 

The Washington Post 
December 22, 1963 - page All 

Harry Truman Writes ; 

Limit CIA Role 
To Intelligence 

By Harry S Truman 

Copyright, 1963, by Harry S Truman 

INDEPENDENCE, MO., Dec. 21—1 think it has become necessary to take another look 
at the purpose and operations of our Central Intelligence Agency— CIA. At least, I would 
like to submit here the original reason why I thought it necessary to organize this Agency 
during my Administration, what I expected it to do and how it was to operate as an arm of the 

I think it is fairly obvious that by and large a President's performance in office is as 
effective as the information he has and the information he gets. That is to say, that assuming 
the President himself possesses a knowledge of our history, a sensitive understanding of our 
institutions, and an insight into the needs and aspirations of the people, he needs to have 
available to him the most accurate and up-to-the-minute information on what is going on 
everywhere in the world, and particularly of the trends and developments in all the danger 
spots in the contest between East and West. This is an immense task and requires a special 
kind of an intelligence facility. 

Of course, every President has available to him all the information gathered by the many 
intelligence agencies already in existence. The Departments of State, Defense, Commerce, 
Interior and others are constantly engaged in extensive information gathering and have done 
excellent work. 

But their collective information reached the President all too frequently in conflicting 
conclusions. At times, the intelligence reports tended to be slanted to conform to established 
positions of a given department. This becomes confusing and what's worse, such intelligence 
is of little use to a President in reaching the right decisions. 

Therefore, I decided to set up a special organization charged with the collection of all 
intelligence reports from every available source, and to have those reports reach me as 
President without department "treatment" or interpretations. 

I wanted and needed the information in its "natural raw" state and in as comprehensive a 
volume as it was practical for me to make full use of it. But the most important thing about 
this move was to guard against the chance of intelligence being used to influence or to lead 
the President into unwise decisions— and I thought it was necessary that the President do his 
own thinking and evaluating. 

Since the responsibility for decision making was his— then he had to be sure that no 
information is kept from him for whatever reason at the discretion of any one department or 
agency, or that unpleasant facts be kept from him. There are always those who would want to 
shield a President from bad news or misjudgments to spare him from being "upset." 

For some time I have been disturbed by the way CIA has been diverted from its original 
assignment. It has become an operational and at times a policy-making arm of the 
Government. This has led to trouble and may have compounded our difficulties in several 
explosive areas. 

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8/9/20 1 5 Limit CIA Role To Intelligence by Harry S Truman 

I never had any thought that when I set up the CIA that it would be injected into peacetime 
cloak and dagger operations. Some of the complications and embarrassment I think we have 
experienced are in part attributable to the fact that this quiet intelligence arm of the President 
has been so removed from its intended role that it is being interpreted as a symbol of sinister 
and mysterious foreign intrigue— and a subject for cold war enemy propaganda. 

With all the nonsense put out by Communist propaganda about "Yankee imperialism," 
"exploitive capitalism," "war-mongering," "monopolists," in their name-calling assault on the 
West, the last thing we needed was for the CIA to be seized upon as something akin to a 
subverting influence in the affairs of other people. 

I well knew the first temporary director of the CIA, Adm. Souers, and the later permanent 
directors of the CIA, Gen. Hoyt Vandenberg and Allen Dulles. These were men of the 
highest character, patriotism and integrity— and I assume this is true of all those who 
continue in charge. 

But there are now some searching questions that need to be answered. I, therefore, would 
like to see the CIA be restored to its original assignment as the intelligence arm of the 
President, and that whatever else it can properly perform in that special field— and that its 
operational duties be terminated or properly used elsewhere. 

We have grown up as a nation, respected for our free institutions and for our ability to 
maintain a free and open society. There is something about the way the CIA has been 
functioning that is casting a shadow over our historic position and I feel that we need to 
correct it. 


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